Difficulties: Part Nine
I’m sorry for not teaching Kylie to swim like I should have. I know you were trusting me. I didn’t mean to mess up like that.
I met up with an old friend from the pound yesterday. She’s a Peophin, and she was just recently adopted. She came to live in Maraqua, and now she’s staying in my cavern. We’ve been talking... Look, Elisa, I really miss how things were between us – before I became a Flotsam.
I still love it down here, but I’ve realized I can’t stand being away from you. Do you have any advice for me?
I sighed and closed the seal of the water-resistant paper. A Maraquan Spyder waited patiently to take my letter to Mystery Island. I handed him the Neomail and hovered outside my cave, watching him swim away.
It was raining above the water, and down below, everything was dark and gloomy. I hoped the petpet wouldn’t have trouble with the delivery.
I went back inside and started cleaning the fishing line I had found this morning. Leilani the red Peophin was out collecting shells for my necklaces. After an hour of making no progress, I flopped onto my sea sponge bed.
Twenty minutes later, the Spyder was waking me up. He couldn’t talk, but he was obviously excited for finishing his job. I shook away the sleepiness and opened the letter. “Don’t go anywhere,” I told the petpet. “I might have to reply. I’ll pay you after I read it.”
I understand what you’re going through. Listen... things are different around here. I don’t want you to come home and expect to go back to our old ways. The thing is, Kylie was getting lonely. We took a trip to the pound a few days ago, and I sort of came home with another pet.
Her name is Pinkie. She’s a blue Poogle. I had the house renovated, and we’ve built another room for Pinkie to live in. I’ll start making more room plans if you decide to come home. I want you to feel more comfortable. Maybe Kylie would be willing to let you have your old room back.
I’m sorry I don’t have any advice for you. It’s your decision, Lela. I’ll support you no matter what you decide to do.
Elisabeth Lynn Johnson
(P.S. A letter came for you. It’s in the envelope.)
I was shocked. Elisa adopted another pet without telling me? And when did she start signing her Neomails with her full name, as if I didn’t know her? I was so horror-stricken I barely remembered about the other letter. Then I ripped it open.
It’s Kate. I can’t believe this! I’m sorry I didn’t write sooner. Jessica pounded me. She gave me your letters (she kept them hidden, believe it or not) the day she brought me in, but I haven’t been able to reply until now. I’ve finally been adopted by a great owner. But Jessica traded off Annabelle, in return for some “fancy” pet. Listen, Le, you have to help me! I can’t live without the both of you.
Are you still living in Maraqua? Oh, I hope you’re not in the pound. It’s so awful there, and I was only in there for a few days! I’ve read your letters at least a hundred times. I want to apologize for treating you like a horrible sister when we were living with Jessica. I was spoiled and rude. I’m sorry. I’ve changed now.
Listen, I want to keep in contact with you. I’m living on Mystery Island now. My owner Sasha has been thinking about adopting another pet so I won’t be so lonely... The thing is, I really miss you. You and Annabelle both.
Please reply as soon as possible.
Your sister, Kate
I read the letter three times over. By the third time, I was sobbing. How could Jessica do such a thing? She pounded Kate and traded Annabelle! It was the least I could do to reply.
I am so sorry to hear about all this. I had no idea! I’ve missed you two so much. I’m so glad you’ve found a loving home, but I have to know where Annabelle is. What if she’s being neglected? You know how sensitive she is!
Oh, Kate, I’ll do everything I can to help. But what can I do? To answer your question, yes, I am still living in Maraqua. But it might not be for long. I’m going through some struggles right now. I’ll explain later.
I turned the sealed letter over to the Spyder, who had started to doze off. “Send this, wait fifteen minutes for a reply, then come back for your pay,” I instructed. “If a message doesn’t return in fifteen minutes, don’t worry about it.”
The Spyder swam off, and I raced to the shell shop. Bursting through the door, I yelled, “BRENNA!”
Brenna, the Maraquan Aisha shopkeeper, looked up in surprise. “Lela! What’s wrong?”
“I need to find Leilani! Now!”
“She just left,” Brenna confirmed. “Said she was going to take a look around the drop-off.” The Aisha shrugged. “If you hurry, you might be able to catch up to her.”
“Thanks!” I zipped out of the shop and swam with all my might. The drop-off was northeast of Maraqua City – quite a ways away. I left a stream of bubbles behind me, and nearly half an hour later, I reached the drop-off.
Panting, I looked around for the red Peophin, desperately hoping she hadn’t wandered into the deeper waters below the drop-off. I didn’t have time to follow her down then meet the Spyder back at the cave.
“Leilani!” I yelled, scaring some nearby fish. A second later, a red head popped up from behind some seaweed. “Oh, good! There you are!” I quickly swam over to her. “You’ll never believe the Neomail I just got.”
In a rush, I explained everything. My letter to Elisabeth, her reply, Kate’s letter, and my reply. Wide-eyed, Leilani listened silently. After I was done, she suggested we head back to the cave to wait for the Spyder and get some breakfast.
* * *
“‘I don’t know how we’ll find Annabelle, but Sasha has promised to help.’” I read Kate’s Neomail out loud. “‘And about your struggles, I’m sorry to hear that. Let me know if I can do anything for you. Can we get together sometime? I go down to the beach almost every morning... I know Maraqua isn’t close, but still...’”
I sniffled. Kate really cared about me.
Three days later, I stepped onto the sand in my new feet. Hooves, to be exact. I was a green Uni living on Mystery Island. I wasn’t going to be a Uni for long, though – my new owner, Sasha, promised to save up for a different morphing potion. Hooves were hard to swim with.
Sighing, I stared out into the ocean. I hoped I had made the right decision. Elisabeth had been understanding, and somehow seemed a little relieved. I’m sure it was stressful for her to have a pet living underwater, where she couldn’t see me. Now she knows I’m safe on Mystery Island with my sister.
“Do you miss it?” Kate asked quietly, coming up to stand next to me.
“Yes, of course,” I answered, my gaze still out at sea. “But I’m much happier up here, where I can be with you. Leilani promised to come visit me on the weekends, and I’m sure I’ll see Elisabeth again sometime.”
Kate cocked her head and looked at me. “Do you still feel funny about that?”
I nodded. “It’s weird to think about it. I’m kind of scared of meeting her other pets... Did I tell you she wrote me the day I came up here? She said she adopted another pet – a baby Chia. Her name’s Arielle, and I guess she’s really fussy. Elisabeth said Kylie’s started locking herself in her room to get away from the baby’s wailing.”
Kate giggled, clapping her paw over her mouth. Then she changed the subject. “Well, I’m glad you’re here with me. Now all we need to do is find Annie.”
I glanced at her. “How are we going to do that, anyway?”
The rainbow Kougra shrugged. “We could write Jessica and ask her who she traded Annabelle to. Although I’m sure she’ll say she doesn’t remember. She’s probably made a dozen trades since then. Who knows.”
“Poor Annie,” I murmured. “This is a true mystery. We have to get her back.”
“A mystery,” Kate repeated. “That’s it! Lela, finding Annabelle is a mystery. I’ve read a book about something like this before. What was it called? ...Oh! Mystery of the Kougra Paw. Of course, this has nothing to do with a Kougra, or a paw, but still... We’ll look for clues. All we have to do is start at the beginning.” She took in a deep breath. “I’m sure Sasha will let us go to the Lost Desert.”
I froze. “The Lost Desert?” I had promised myself I’d never return there.
“Lela! Please! It’s for Annabelle. Who knows? Maybe she’s still there. She is painted desert, after all. Her new owner might live there.”
I let out a long breath of air. “You’re right,” I agreed. “We have to find Annabelle. We can’t let this mystery go unsolved.”
Hope you enjoyed this! It took a long time to write. xD Maybe we'll see more of Lela in the future...